Hungary 2019

Written by  //  July 3, 2019  //  Europe & EU  //  No comments

Hungary’s far-right government passes law that lets it take over scientific research bodies
(The Independent) Hungary‘s far-right government has passed a law allowing the state to tighten its control over scientific research bodies.
The law strips the 200-year-old Hungarian Academy of Sciences of its network of 15 research bodies and hands them over to a committee.
The committee’s chairman will be appointed by Viktor Orban, the Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, and half of its members will be selected by the government.
Lydia Gall, Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the law is “essentially another nail in the coffin for academic freedom and independent thought” in the country.
“This is the latest in a line of attacks on academic freedom after forcing the Central European University out of the country and banning gender studies at universities,” she told The Independent.
Liviu Matei, provost of the Central European University, said: “This is just another moment illustrating the disdain of this government – of the regime perhaps I should say – for the value of science, for academic freedom, for the rule of law and democracy. It’s not something new in Hungary. It’s just confirming a trend that has been here for many years now.”
Professor Matei said one Hungarian research team had already decided to leave the country and move to Sweden “because they cannot continue their work here”. He added: “Freedom for science, for education, is being restricted almost by the day.”

13-14 May
(The Atlantic) Donald Trump embraced Hungary’s prime minister at today’s White House meeting. Viktor Orbán has flirted with authoritarianism and undermined democratic institutions in the country as part of his self-proclaimed goal of creating an “illiberal democratic” state. The praise from the president isn’t all that surprising: Trump’s own hand-picked ambassador in Hungary told Franklin Foer that “knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years … he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orbán has.”
(Reuters) ‘Like me, a little controversial’ said President Trump as he praised Hungary’s Prime Minister and brushed off concerns about threats to democratic norms in Hungary during Viktor Orban’s tenure. “He’s a respected man. And I know he’s a tough man, but he’s a respected man,” Trump said, when asked whether he had concerns about a weakening of democracy in Hungary. Welcoming the right-wing Hungarian leader for a meeting in the Oval Office, Trump lauded him for being tough on immigration, a policy area in which the two leaders have similar visions.
Trump should be isolating Viktor Orbán, not feting him at the White House
Editor’s Note: With European Parliament elections coming up later this month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s reception at the White House by President Trump appears an endorsement of illiberal, nationalist forces which seek to weaken the European Union, providing opportunities for Russia and China to divide the West, argues James Kirchick. This piece originally appeared in NBC News.
(Brookings) Those elections are projected to result in increasing support for a variety of nationalist factions, from Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party to Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s Northern League, all of which seek to weaken the European Union and, in doing so, provide opportunities for powers such as Russia and China to divide the West from within.
Having transformed his country into the illiberal democracy he prophesied in 2014, Orbán has emerged as the most visible leader of these forces. Under such conditions, the United States should be isolating the Hungarian prime minister, not embracing him.
Monday’s will be the first visit of a Hungarian leader to the Oval Office since 2005. White House meetings are a precious commodity that presidents typically dispense to close allies or to achieve clear-cut U.S. foreign policy objectives. Under Orbán, Hungary has repeatedly snubbed the U.S. and the liberal, democratic values it seeks to uphold in Europe. It has expelled U.S.-accredited Central European University, blocked NATO cooperation with Ukraine, unleashed state-sponsored Holocaust revisionism and anti-Semitism, and refused to extradite a pair of Russian arms dealers wanted for selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels, to name just a few of Budapest’s more egregious rebuffs.

10 May
Viktor Orbán’s War on Intellect
As the Hungarian prime minister systematically undermined his own country’s education system, one institution stood defiant: a university in the heart of Budapest, founded by George Soros.
By Franklin Foer
(The Atlantic June edition) On a relentlessly gray Budapest morning, Michael Ignatieff took me to the rooftop of Central European University’s main building. Ignatieff, an intellectual who made an unsuccessful bid to become prime minister of Canada, has spent much of his career studying the fragility of human rights and the irresistible impulse toward nationalism. When he became CEU’s rector in 2016, however, he didn’t believe the job would catapult him to the front lines of the fight for liberalism. He imagined it would be more like a pleasant homecoming. Hungary is the native land of his wife, Zsuzsanna; he had come to know the place intimately on regular visits to her family. “I’m of a certain age,” he said. “I thought, That’s a nice way to top it off.”
Hungary once had some of the best universities in postcommunist Europe. But Orbán’s government has systematically crushed them. His functionaries have descended on public universities, controlling them tightly. Research funding, once determined by an independent body of academics, is now primarily dispensed by an Orbán loyalist.
Like Pol Pot or Josef Stalin, Orbán dreams of liquidating the intelligentsia, draining the public of education, and molding a more pliant nation. But he is a state-of-the-art autocrat; he understands that he need not resort to the truncheon or the midnight knock at the door. His assault on civil society arrives in the guise of legalisms subverting the institutions that might challenge his authority.
CEU is a private university, accredited in both the United States and Hungary, and for that reason it has posed a particular challenge to the regime. The school was founded by the Budapest-born financier George Soros, whom Orbán has vilified as a nefarious interloper in Hungary’s affairs. Soros had conceived the school during the dying days of communism to train a generation of technocrats who would write new constitutions, privatize state enterprises, and lead the post-Soviet world into a cosmopolitan future. The university, he declared, would “become a prototype of an open society.”
When Orbán moved against CEU, it wasn’t just political posturing or spleen. Destroying Hungary’s finest institution of higher education was a crucial step in his quest for eternal political life.

22 April
Study documents electoral corruption in Hungary
(Yale News) Politicians and powerbrokers in Hungary use a variety of illicit election strategies to secure people’s votes, including making access to public benefits contingent on supporting preferred candidates, according to a new study co-authored by Yale political scientist Isabela Mares.
Mares and co-author Lauren Young, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California-Davis, documented the prevalence of multiple forms of electoral clientelism — quid pro quo exchanges of votes for some agreed upon behavior by a politician — in Hungary’s 2014 parliamentary elections.
The study, published in the journal Comparative Politics, is the first to document electoral clientelism in Hungary, a member of NATO and the European Union.
Until now, we didn’t know whether clientelism existed in countries in the European Union,” said Mares, a professor of political science. “These are countries that are supposed to have free and fair elections. The existence of these illicit practices in Hungary is extremely important.”
Research on clientelism generally has focused on documenting vote buying — the exchange of private money or gifts for votes — in developing countries in Latin America and Africa, Mares said.

21 March
Bloomberg Politics: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban emerged bruised, but not beaten, after Europe’s biggest political family froze the membership of his Fidesz party for eroding democratic standards. At home, Orban’s pro-government propaganda machine portrayed the suspension as voluntary and a victory over factions that wanted him expelled, rather than humiliation. That gives him the option of either repairing ties or joining forces with like-minded nationalists after May’s European Parliament elections BBC: Hungary Orban: Europe’s centre-right EPP suspends Fidesz

18 March
Hungary Rolls Out Red Carpet for Obscure Russian Bank, Stoking Spy Fears
The International Investment Bank, an obscure Russian financial institution with a small-time balance sheet, is an unlikely source of global intrigue. In more normal times, its plans to open a new headquarters in Budapest would pass unnoticed.
But the bank’s chairman has longstanding ties to Russian intelligence agencies. And the Hungarian Parliament has effectively granted the bank diplomatic immunity from any scrutiny by police or financial regulators — leaving Western security officials concerned that Russian spies could use it as a base to conduct European intelligence operations.
Several European nations have expelled Russian agents and cracked down on Kremlin finances in an effort to present a united front as Moscow is accused of meddling in the American election, poisoning a former spy in Britain and targeting European think tanks with hacking attacks.
And if the Europeans are now concerned about the Russian bank, so are the Americans, especially since the Trump administration has cultivated Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, as an ally. Days before Parliament granted immunity to the Russian bank, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Mr. Orban in Budapest and warned against allowing Russia to drive a wedge between friends.

28 February
I knew Orbán when he started his political journey; where it’s taken him terrifies me
By András B. Vágvölgyi
(euronews) Orbán’s political appetite knows no limits. His dreams are simple dreams; the dreams you might hear voiced in any bar or football stadium. There should be power (lots of it), money (lots of that too), the Olympics or the World Cup. In fact, any mega event will do to further the development of the neo-feudalist regime. This would inflict still further damage on the wounded social and psychological fabric of the country, with its ethos of silent surrender and petty jealousy. It is astonishing to see how Orbán, in spite of the size and limited resources of his country, has managed to become such a big player on the international stage.
He is like the youngest son in the fairy tales who, in his cunning and care-free way, smashes down everything to gain revenge. He has followers from Poland to Slovenia and North Macedonia, and his destructive work is celebrated in Bavaria, Italy and Austria. He thinks he can bamboozle everyone from Trump to Xi Jinping
Today, the pressing issue is the nightmare world which Vladislav Surkov (Putin’s spin doctor), Breitbart, Steve Bannon and other ultra-Trumpist outlets, Gazeta Polska or even the Hungarian Árpád Habony (Orbán’s spin doctor) are spinning around us. The fight against this is a question of both hardware and software. Around 1989, the Hungarian press and most of its media took note of the warnings that the opposition intellectuals in Budapest sounded in their samizdat publications.
They received support from the Munich-based Radio Free Europe, which was financed by the US Congress and supported the liberal line. Orbán understood this, bulldozing the contemporary media scene aside and after 2010, seizing control of all media that had a mass reach.
It’s really only the Hungarian people who can topple Orbán, yet he represents a threat to Europe as a whole. In Hungary, the bulk of the opposition parties have adopted shades of Orbánism, either as a group or out of self-interest. But any intellectual and political forces that have a sense of responsibility for Europe cannot abandon those intellectual and political forces in Hungary that are opposing Orbán. This is not just a matter of general ethics, but of pure self-preservation.

14 January
Viktor Orbán’s Far-Right Vision for Europe
The Prime Minister of Hungary, who thrives on conflict, has consolidated power in his own country. Now he is turning his attention to the E.U.
By Elisabeth Zerofsky
(The New Yorker) Fidesz and other right-wing parties in the E.U. contend that unelected bureaucrats are making consequential decisions—regulating markets, inflicting rules on technology and economic development, setting quotas of refugee resettlements—without the participation of European citizens; increasingly, voters agree. This resentment is at the core of the Brexit movement in the U.K. and lies behind the growing strength of xenophobic parties in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Central Europe. Steve Bannon, who has been serving as an informal adviser to various nationalist parties, told me, “The fight right now in the E.U. is between those who look at the nation-state as something to be overcome and the others, who look at the nation-state as something to be nurtured.”

8 January
Is Hungary becoming a rogue state in the center of Europe?
By James Kirchick
(Brookings) Most of the international criticism directed at Hungary over the past nine years has focused on domestic indicators such as the rule of law, separation of powers and press freedom. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been remarkably blunt about his designs for Hungary, citing China, Russia and Turkey as models. After an election in April widely deemed free but not fair, he sounded a triumphal note, declaring that “the era of liberal democracy is over.”
Since Orban won reelection, however, his behavior has called into question not only his democratic bona fides, but also his basic trustworthiness as an ally of the United States and member of the democratic Western world. Increasingly, Hungary is behaving like a rogue state.

Leave a Comment

comm comm comm